New Zealand is one of the most beautiful places in the world. The country is striking as it showcases a wealth of vibrant people, wild places and breathtaking scenery. For the outdoor sports traveler the appeal of New Zealand is elevated as it caters to adventurous souls on every level, especially on the south island. If you happen to be lucky enough to be heading down to the Kiwi nation sometime this summer here are five activities that you simply can’t miss out on, all of which are ripe for a visit during the North American summer/fall months of June-September.
Ski a Club Field
New Zealand offers a ton of ski opportunities for the international traveler, from North American style ski resorts to heli-skiing with Southern Lakes Heliski, but nothing is as distinctly Kiwi in terms of sliding on snow like the club fields. The highest concentration of club fields found in the country are located off Highway 73 near Arthur’s Pass. The experience is unique in that each of the club fields are owned and operated by the the ski club members. Don’t expect luxury accommodations, spas and sushi bars, but do expect friendly mountain people, in a laid back alpine atmosphere with exceptional access to backountry ski terrain. Broken River and Craigieburn are two of the best and your experience will be best served with at least a one night stay when you make the trip. Chances are you’ll want to stay longer, and if you can figure out how to use the nutcracker rope tows,
a distinctly Kiwi ski tool that’s worn like a belt, and calls for the user to grab a moving rope tow while latching the “nutcracker” on to the tow, you’ll be shredding pow like the locals in no time.
Mountain Bike Wanaka
The options for mountain bike riding in Wanaka are endless. With amazing rock climbing, skiing and a host of other outdoor activities this mountain community is arguably one of the top places to visit when making a trip to the south island. If you’re into mountain biking casual cruises along scenic Lake Wanaka are easy, while for the singletrack seekers the Sticky Forest zone, an easy ride from town, will keep you entertained for days on end. The riding in the forest is suitable for novices, but there’s also a good amount of tight, twisting singletrack with even a few trails that boast solid man made features for the freeriders out there. The town of Wanaka has a few local bike shops making rentals easy, and any shop will be willing and able to share necessary beta with you so you can lock into whatever style of ride you’re looking for.
While the country’s most well known break, Raglan-an amazingly sculpted left point break, is located on the north island, Kaikoura is the south island’s top spot. An equally perfect wave when it’s on, Kaikoura is a world-class right point break that especially shines when a nice south swell is pulsing. There are several breaks in the region offering a good amount of choice for the surf traveler, and the town of Kaikoura itself is an easy place to stock up on whatever you need to be comfortable while staying in the area. Loads of aquatic life line this particular section of coastline, and chances are you’ll run into more people out looking for whales, seals and sea birds than you will surfers looking for waves. It’s a beautiful place to spend a few days or weeks on the road regardless of the surf, but if you catch Kaikoura right, and ride a perfectly peeling wave for hundreds of feet from the peak down into the bay with dramatic snow capped mountains hanging overhead, it’ll end up standing out as a place you’ll be sure to never forget.
Climb Castle Hill
If you’re going to visit one of the ski club fields off Arthur’s Pass then you’re going to be close enough to Castle Hill to stop in for a visit. If you’re a climber, specifically one who boulders, then you’ve probably already heard of Castle Hill and might have been planning a visit to New Zealand just to climb here. The landscape is unforgettable making for a nice hike or yoga session, and there’s even quality mountain biking in the area. But climbing on the sea of limestone that encompasses this zone is the real draw. While vertical routes do exist it’s the fields and fields of boulders that draw the most attention, especially in that the landings are mostly grassy and soft with boulders that almost look like they were made to be climbed. The only thing is that the climbing is not that easy, and more than a couple of solid climbers have shown up only to get sandbagged on grades they’re accustomed to climbing back home. Less texture with slick features and really cool pockets describe a majority of the climbing options, but even if you’re not a hardcore climber you’ll thoroughly enjoy a visit, and if you do make the trip all you need is a pair of climbing shoes to give the boulders a whirl.
Kayak Milford Sound
If there’s one spot that people from all over the world come to New Zealand to see it’s Milford Sound. A World Heritage site, Milford Sound is one of those places that can’t really be accurately represented in photos-you just have to be there to experience it. Breathtaking beauty is an understatement in this well visited area of the country, and with some of the most famous backpacking trails in the country found here, including ferry options that will take you around the fjords and waterfalls, you may have a tough time choosing what adventure to commit to. Penguins, dolphins and seals are commonly seen in the area, and one of the best ways to enjoy it all is by kayak. Several operators run daily and overnight trips in the area, and it’s an activity accessible by most anyone even if you’ve had little to no prior experience.
While these five adventures are a must the south island is littered with world-class opportunities like fly-fishing and tramping (hiking in Kiwi), to lush wine vineyards, and more unique adrenaline-fueled activities in Queenstown than you thought could ever possibly exist. The rugged West Coast and deep rainforests are only accentuated by the accessible glaciers and welcoming people. It’s a trip worth the effort on so many levels, and if you’re looking for outdoor adventure, it should rank high on your “where to go next ” list.